The creativity inherent in music is a delightful art form. Music is a core human experience and the imagination of possibilities, tying our diverse social instincts inseparably together. In the same way, the music emanating from Coke Studio beautifully intersects with Pakistani cultural boundaries by linking our varied traditional experiences.
This August was the launch of the much-awaited, milestone 10th season of the popular platform. The six phenomenal releases to date have wonderfully exhibited the amalgamation of local as well as international flavor, as evidenced by ‘Allahu Akbar’, in episode one, which blends Middle-Eastern and South Asian musical motifs in a confluence of devotion. Similarly, ‘Jaan-e-Baharaan’ from episode 2, sung by Ali Zafar, infuses Spanish musical motifs in its stylings.
Coke Studio’s niche has always been fusion music. The platform has given international light to musical genres like classical, traditional, folk, instrumental, pop, film-music and rock among others. As a form of Islamic music espousing peace and tolerance, Sufism, generally thought of as a soft offshoot of Islam, has inspired poets and musicians since at least the founding of the Nizamuddin Auliya shrine in Delhi in the thirteenth century, where haunting notes of qawwalis still radiate during weekly concerts. In episode 5, ‘Rangrez’, a modern Sufi song, encompasses the true meaning of devotional love. The tabla flirts with the shehnai as a flurry of backing vocals paint a vibrant surrounding as Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s glowing and scintillating voice takes to the foreground to bring out the raag and dhanak of the melody. ‘Sayonee’ from episode 2 is given a new life with the decadence of the rubab, magical inserts of the flute and a hard-hitting percussive body. Filled with musical surprises, Salman Ahmad leads his bespoke ensemble through a journey of crescendos, jugalbandis and spirituality.
‘Kaatay na kaatay’ from episode 6, is a stunning example of rock meeting semi-classical. It features Humera Arshad, Rachel Viccaji & Aima Baig. With this stellar trifecta of vocal innovation, the song sculpts an innovative blend of instrumentation and musical styles complete with a mandolin solo, big drums and a vibrant energy. Among other examples of fusion music are the immensely popular ‘Tinak Dhin’, from episode 2, an original folk-centric number, interspersed with an energetic catchy tune, showcasing Hamza’s smoky voice, Sethi’s charming finesse and Ehsin’s textured versatility, which merge upon the playful, low-ends of the kanjira, upbeat mandolin and crisp sitar to create an exciting score that never gets tiring. ‘Baazi’ is a Siraiki classic, complete with a grooving bass and a truly ethnic percussive section. Sahir Ali Bagga’s music direction brings the song into a delightfully high-spirited terrain that is an attempt to embody the true sounds of the soil.
‘Laal Meri Pat’ is entrancing, enthralling and ethereal. It is Strings’ rendition that takes the song past the threshold of a zealous dhamaal and places it into an ambient and spiritually opulent sonic environment. A multi-faceted and nuanced blend of devotional poetry, fervent chants of ‘Jhulelal’ perched upon a dreamy, psychedelic soundscape of the sitar and a traditional groove, the rendition is rich with emotion and mysticism.
The underlying theme for these songs, is as diverse as the genres it supports. It spans the varied themes of young love, unrequited desires, spiritual devotions, the colors of life, reproachful laments turning into manifestations of grief, loss of love and bittersweet emotions. A contemporary folk number, ‘Jindjaani’ ventures into the rough yet rewarding terrain of love, as a petulant lover agonizing over the tragedy of love lost. A modern Sufi song, ‘Rangrez’ encompasses the true meaning of devotional love, while ‘Sab maya hai’ narrates a sordid tale of the depravity that finds itself within the realms of love and money. The song is a fitting conversation of forlorn love, pleading with the ‘papeeha’ to find some solace and respite. The song burns with sorrow.
This bittersweet song, ‘Chaa Rahi Kali Ghata’, relays the anguish and grief that often follows love, while ‘Muntazir’ is a sweet ditty that juxtaposes the boldness of declaring one’s love and the fragility of the process of unveiling your heart. ‘Ranjish hi Sahi’ is Ali Sethi’s vocally flawless take on a forsaken beau. The song, intimate by design, carries the weight of an abandoned lover that resonates throughout this fitting tribute to the legendary Mehdi Hassan. ‘Faasle’, a masterfully produced ballad, is a powerful tale of unrequited love, and an ode to love found and love lost.
We breathlessly look forward to the next episodes by Coke Studio and the stellar emotional rollercoasters it espouses, ranging from melancholic to euphoric while punctuated by melodious magnificence and vocal virtuosity.